Comic Book of the Month Awards for April 2016

I picked up 13 comics this past April including my regulars, the second issue for International Iron Man, Sam Wilson: Captain America #8, Avengers Standoff: Assault on Pleasant Hill Omega #1 – the conclusion to the event – and Moon Knight #1 by Jeff Lemire and Greg Smallwood, an impulsive buy originating with sheer interest on my part. I barely know anything about the character, and this would truthfully be my first Moon Knight comic book. The first issue of the new Moon Knight series was unexpectedly the best comic book of the month on all fronts, with the runner-ups Doctor Strange #7, The Astonishing Ant-Man #7, and International Iron Man #2 trailing close behind in differing categories. I’m not sure if I’ll continue with this new title (money is money, after all), but it’s off to a very good start and I would recommend giving it a try. The extra-sized Flash #50 released this month, but I found it, as well as Nick Spencer’s final Standoff issue, to be disappointing. I’m liking Dan Abnett’s Aquaman so far, and the last issue of the latest Uncanny Inhumans story arc ended on a more satisfying note than how it began.

But out of these and the other four remaining nominees, why did Moon Knight #1 sweep the Comic Book Awards for April?

Cover of the Month Award: Moon Knight #1 

Cover By: Greg Smallwood

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The most obvious visual trait to Greg Smallwood’s cover for Moon Knight #1 is how much the color white overwhelms the image. Some may say this lack of color variety or artistic detail detracts from hypothetically “more interesting” cover art, but, on the contrary, these traits are exactly what furnish a stunning piece of artwork. Marc Spector gazes intensely at the reader, garbed with a straightjacket in a place that faintly resembles a solitary confinement room found in metal hospitals. Spector’s eyes and shadow, plus the brown straps of the jacket, help balance the visual impact of the cover. There is a serene creepiness to this image, and the big and bold simplicity of it is a success.

Art of the Month Award: Moon Knight #1

Artist: Greg Smallwood

Color Artist: Jordie Bellaire

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Whether it be the tremendous Bill Sienkiewicz-inspired first four pages, the intelligent artistic storytelling properties of the sophisticated layouts and colors, or a number of other interesting art qualities present within this book, Moon Knight #1 can rest assured as one of the visually deepest comics of the year as of yet. I’m not that familiar with artist Greg Smallwood’s previous work, but if this issue doesn’t put him on the map, then I don’t know what will. He has a down-to-earth, realistic style in how he draws the characters’ facial expressions and gestures that make them, and the book as a whole, feel grounded and alive. Smallwood also has an intriguing balance between overly simple and overly detailed. One small panel may just offer a bit of art to convey a scene and then the next panel or page is an explosion of crisp pencils and lines. The attention to detail in some of these pages, such as pages 1-4, 22, and 24-26, is very much praiseworthy in so many respects. It’s not everyday that you see a comic book with a 15 panel page (page 26). How colorist Jordie Bellaire accents these pages to consistently carry the reader through the issue’s story is also a great, noteworthy accomplishment. White being the central color to Moon Knight’s persona, its arresting visual presence in the comic, and the decision to emphasize it to separate panels with no outline borders, is without fault. Moon Knight #1 is a stroke of artistic genius in many areas, and how it accomplishes to tell such a captivatingly psychological first chapter in the five-part story with the art is just exquisite.

Story of the Month Award: Moon Knight #1 (“Welcome To New Egypt: Part 1 of 5”)

Writer: Jeff Lemire 

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The first issue of any comic book series is always exciting. They have the power to welcome in new readers, and, if the reader likes what he or she sees, produce a monthly subscriber to that series for a time being. I really liked what I read and saw in Jeff Lemire and Greg Smallwood’s Moon Knight #1. The issue begins with our protagonist experiencing a dream, and in this eerie vision/dream Marc Spector (Moon Knight) communes with the Egyptian moon god Khonshu, the source of his powers. Khonshu asks, “Mark? Mark, can you hear me? Mark, is that you?” to which he replies, “I-I’m not sure.” These first few lines of the first page set ablaze the theme of this entire issue as Marc Spector searches out his true identity. Waking up in a mental asylum, Mark is told the Moon Knight figure is a figment of his imagination and a side-effect of his mental disorder. He eventually tries to escape, not willing to believe his entire life to be a lie, and what he stumbles upon as he reaches the building’s rooftop shocks him. An Egyptian invasion force has took over New York; however, it appears to be unseen to the naked eye. The mysterious story of Moon Knight #1 keeps you guessing and you feel for Marc Spector’s confused predicament. At the end of the issue, I had to ask myself, “What is really going on here?” and I love that invested feeling a great comic book can give a reader.

Issue of the Month Award: Moon Knight #1 (“Welcome To New Egypt: Part 1 of 5”)

Writer: Jeff Lemire

Artist: Greg Smallwood

Color Artist: Jordie Bellaire

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The more I tell you how much I enjoyed Moon Knight #1, the more I want to continue reading what is in store for this character (sorry, wallet). By winning Cover of the Month, Art of the Month, and Story of the Month, this issue automatically places itself as Issue of the Month for April 2016. There’s not much else to say except that I strongly hope this series can continue on with this much talented care and quality. It’s commonplace for comic book series’ to start off a critical hit and then descend into the herd of subpar comics you see on the stands, but I think as long as Lemire and Smallwood continue to keep on keeping on, it won’t fall into this.

With all that said, go out and pick up Moon Knight #1! Like, right now!

Thank you all for checking out my awards for April and be sure to check back sometime next month for May’s Comic Book Awards. Until then, hopefully you and I will continue to be reading comics!

Thief’s Challenge

Published in 1993, this was the first and only TSR Dungeons & Dragons module that I exclusively wrote.  I also had a hand in developing two other products for TSR:  The Castle Guide and The Equipment Guide.

It has been more than twenty years since I wrote the adventure and many of memories have faded as to why or how I even landed this contract.  I vaguely remember living in an apartment over a barber shop in Comstock Park Michigan.  I was living with a room mate and best friend Rick Slawson at the time.  The funny thing is that at that time computers were exceedingly basic, I want to say it was written on a program called Ami for either the Commodore 64 or perhaps the first edition of Windows on an old ’86 processor computer.

The editor at the time was Bruce Heard, or at least he was my point person.  I have met up with him again after all these years and although he is no longer with Wizard’s of the Coast, he still dabbles in games — once it is in your blood, you can never forget about it.  I recall him saying that the adventure should be like the movie To Catch a Thief by the imminently famous director Alfred Hitchcock.

I don’t remember anything else about it, to be truthful.  And it has been at least 20 years since I read through the module. The really stunning tidbit is that I still have gamers come up to me or send me emails saying how much they liked this module.  As a person with a foggy memory, I chuckle as they know more about the story than I do.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thief%27s_Challenge

A special request to any of my friends or to anyone finding this article:  I am trying to get into wikipedia as a author or game designer.  I have tried myself to write my own biography, but Wikipedia frowns on that and after being rejected four times I have given up.  The process of adding an article is relatively easy, mostly if you have done this sort of thing before — if anyone can pick up the gauntlet/challenge, I would be indebted to you.  There is plenty of information online, in books (about gaming), and newpaper articles on my gaming career that it shouldn’t require a ton of research to pose this.  If you want to try and write up a Wiki entry on me, let me know and I can provide other information.

Looking for Old Grognards

Do you consider yourself a grognard — an old curmudgeon of games, most specifically of RPGs and strategic board games?  Then I need you.  I am looking for people to help me with my game designs.  Most especially I am looking for play testers.

If you want to test my games, I’ll send you a copy of Phantasm Adventures.  The first book is how to make characters and I need gamers  to generate characters. I need to make sure I didn’t miss anything or that a set of rules makes sense.

Please respond to: tchristensen616 @ gmail.com and we can discuss how you can help!

Get out the graph paper!

Ye Glorious Dungeon Crawl

Amish Johnson and the Pegasus Chamber

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00LZ840KW

After seven long years I have finally finished my first novel.  You can take a peek at the book at several sights and by the end of the week iTunes and Barnes & Noble should also have the story available too.

What happens when reality fuses with dreams? A futuristic world turned upside down into a prehistoric land of savagery and adventure.

Amish Johnson and the Pegasus Chamber is the story of a student of the twenty-second century and his exciting journey into a virtual world fraught with danger. By accident, Aaron obtains a secret code to the Pegasus Chamber, a computer simulation so real that participants cannot tell fantasy from reality. What was meant to be a party on a virtual beach in paradise becomes a tooth-and-nail fight for survival. Aaron and his friends find themselves in more danger than any back alley of New Detroit. Forging together the gang of kids head off on the wildest adventure they could ever imagine.

As Aaron “Amish” Johnson tries to discover why the simulation has not ended, he is determined to convince them that the virtual world is just as real as their lives in New Detroit. Along the way, the teens meet a mysterious girl that for all practical purposes should not be there. As the gang comes to grip with their mortality, they experience wild storms, flesh eating dinosaurs, ancient ruins filled with danger, and ultimately the greatest question humanity has ever asked?

This is the first book in the Amish Johnson Trilogy. Coming this fall is the second book, Amish Johnson and the Leprechaun’s Legacy and finally in 2015 Amish Johnson and the Minotaur’s Maze.

 

Lord of the Donuts

Three donuts for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Dunken where the Coffee lie.
One donut to rule them all, One donut to find them,
One donut to bring them all and in the morning bind them
In the Land of Dunken where the Coffee lie

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February Reads

One of my goals this year is to read more. I tend to read spots here and there of books, or lose myself in articles.   They say that if you write, you must read.  To learn how to write a better story, look at other authors and how they structure their stories.  It is true that you can learn a bit about writing, reading books.

As I proceed with my second book, Amish Johnson and the Leprechaun’s Legacy, I am always learning how to craft a better story — even structure my sentences so they flow easier.

I hope to provide a list of books that I have read, each month on my blog.  I am also going to share with my readers those books I find so fascinating.  Both well established authors, as well as new authors, I hope to read in the coming months.

Almost all books will be in the form of ebooks.   At Christmas I got myself a Kindle HDX and I appreciate how well I can read books on the screen. How wonderful it is to lose yourself in a story for 99 cents. Now that is what I call a cheap hobby.

Where possible, I have put a link to Amazon or other sites where the books can be found.

***

Book 1

http://www.amazon.com/The-Lost-King-Martin-Lake-ebook/dp/B004X23TFO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1391350707&sr=8-1&keywords=martin+lake

A marvelous story by Martin Lake describing the events of 1066, after the death of King Harold and the rise to power of William the Conqueror.  A first person perspective through the eyes of Edger, the thirteen year old successor to king Alfred.  Burdened with impossible hopes and expectations, mired in fear and treachery, Edgar begins a life-time of resistance to the Norman conquerors.

***

Book 2

http://www.amazon.com/Young-Jaguar-Pre-Aztec-Trilogy-Book-ebook/dp/B007UII58E/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1391350909&sr=8-7&keywords=zoe+saadia

Zoe Saadia is a fabulous writer of Native American fiction. She has close to a dozen other books, covering several cultures of the Americas and Meso America.  I have always been a great admirer of the history and cultures of Meso America such as the Aztec, Mayan, and the Indians of the Great Plains.

In this book the story follows a young boy who through family ties is close to the Emperor.  When the man dies, a domino effect of internal power struggles leads him to perhaps betray his father and family.

Zoe meticulously crafts a believable world, one that very few people seem to know about.  School children all know about the Romans or Egyptians, but many do not realize advanced cultures lasting thousands of years existed in the Americas — civilizations just as magnificent as the power of Rome.

***

I am fortunate enough to have found a great publishing partner with Eskape Press that is holding my hand and guiding me along the path of my first publish novel:  Amish Johnson and The Pegasus Chamber.

I implore you to visit their site: http://eskapepress.com/ for other marvelous books to read.